Kai Waho

Unlike most remote tourist destinations, I don't need to get up early to get to Kai Waho, and most refreshingly, my guide, Tom, seems to enjoy coffee as much as I do. A quick hit at Sierra Cafe before we head out in his four wheel drive is a brilliant start.

Tom's relaxed, no nonsense attitude quickly dispels any thoughts of a 'typical' Maori cultural tour. No flax skirts or haka here. Just genuine interest and information. Tamua Pa is truely remote. We're at least an hour from civilisation in the sub alpine homelands of the Tuwharetoa tribe. On arrival we're given an introduction to our expected role over the day - food prep and general extra set of hands - before placing the carved atua around Tom's outdoor kitchen.

In an effort to educate us in the different types of food preparation used by pre-european Maori, Tom's organised a smoked lunch rather than the expected hangi. We set to work - food prep in the kitchen, preparing manuka scrub then lighting the hangi pit, smoker into the pit - then it's off for a walk. One of the joys of Kai Waho is the individual tailoring of the days activities to suit the guests. From hikes or mountain biking, to horse treks or hunting, Tom's got it all. Let him know what you're interested in and he will organise the perfect day to suit. 

Our discussions revolve around the history of the area, including Lochinver Station, the use of the Ripia River as a trading point between Hawkes Bay tribes and Ngati Tuwharetoa, and the different resources available to the pre-european Maori and early settlers. We check out a gorgeous waterfall, go looking for deer sign, walk up into the valley and encounter some wild pigs, and discuss eeling before walking back up to the Pa for lunch.

Mouths start watering as the smoker comes up. Silence falls as Tom quickly prepares plates that wouldn't look out of place being presented in your favourite restaurant, and a karakia is said before we begin our meals. If you've never tried manuka smoked mushrooms, you're missing out! Discussions resume as our hunger is saited. From food storage to Maori gods, Tom quietly shares his knowledge with us.

The day is over long before we're ready to go home. On the drive back out to the main road everyone is quiet. Something about the place makes you want to stay forever.

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